Are you a good listener? Do you hear what those around you attempt to tell you? For most if my life, I fancied myself a good listener. In recent years, I have noticed that my listening skills have diminished, and the way I recognized this was through interactions with my children. One day, during a particularly challenging season of work with YBL, my 8th grade daughter approached me to enthusiastically tell me about her cross-country practice. I was distracted by the current problems & challenges I was facing in the ministry. I mustered the energy to interact a bit, and I asked a question. She replied, “Dad, I just told you that. Weren’t you listening?” I apologized and attempted to explain why my mind was elsewhere. Upon deeper reflection, I recognized that listening is a skill we must work at to stay “in shape.” In today’s post I want emphasize that listening is biblical. In the next two posts, I will continue with exploring listening as it demonstrates humility and communicates that we care about those with whom we interact
Within James 1:19, it is written, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” If we keep in mind that we were created with two ears and one mouth (excuse the elementary observation), we should be willing to listen twice as much as we speak. This is perhaps the most simple reference to our behavior, and yet as James demonstrates in the third chapter of his book, it is not as simple a task as it appears. We have to fight the urges to talk. Nonetheless, scripture counsels us to listen, and respond accordingly. A few of my favorite instances involve the way people encountered God. In I Samuel 3, Samuel is called to serve as a leader. His name is translated as “God has heard.” How fitting that a hallmark of this prophet was that he heard the Lord. Likewise, in I Kings 19, Elijah had to work to be able to hear from God at this point in his ministry, he was near the appointing of Elisha as his successor. Proverbs 1:5 reminds us, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…” We grow as spiritual leaders when we develop as listeners. Jesus often taught in parables, and typically explained the meaning of the parables to his disciples. Mark 4:33 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.” This implies that there was a process involved with the ability of his closest friends to hear and understand.
The writer of Proverbs urges that the wise should, “Hear and increase in learning…” The scriptures are filled with an emphasis and admonition to listen. As we read the Bible, may we seek to develop a maturing ear to hear. May we put this into practice. I invite you be intentional about listening in all parts of your life, and measure the effect on how well you listen to you family, to those you lead at work, and those you encounter in the daily routines of life.